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Inside Al-Sadr’s Al-Mumahhidun Project | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Najaf, Asharq Al-Awsat- A large number of Shi’i leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s supporters are coming from the various Iraqi regions to participate in the Al-Mumahhidun [the pavers, who will pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Shi’i imam] project, for which Al-Sadr had previously called. According to those in charge of the project, “Al-Mumahhidun is a cultural and religious project that bans carrying arms, even for self-defense purposes.” They said that “the project is facing great challenges as a result of the US forces and some influential Shi’i parties working towards foiling it.”

Harith al-Athari, the official in charge of the Al-Mumahhidun project in Al-Najaf, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the purpose of this religious project is to build cultural and religious awareness among Al-Mahdi Army (the Al-Sadr Trend military wing) elements, who are in dire need of cultural and ideological development.” He added: “Moreover, those individuals who fought in battlefields and proved their competence in resisting the occupation also need to prove their competence in cultural arenas and join the fight to gain knowledge and awareness.”

It is worth noting that the Al-Mahdi Army militia had engaged in fierce battles with the US and Iraqi forces in various cities, foremost among which is the Al-Sadr city, the stronghold of Al-Sadr’s supporters.

The head of the Al-Mumahhidun project in Al-Najaf said that “Muqtada al-Sadr holds the view that the religious struggle in which the Islamic nation is engaged is far more dangerous than military struggle.” He added that “religious struggle has affected every home and reached every television station, newspaper, and street, while armed struggle is limited to specific times and regions. This is why Al-Sadr launched the Al-Mumahhidun project.” He pointed out that “the Al-Mumahhidun project in Iraq is being led by a group of clerics and righteous people from the religious seminary.” He added: “The first school for the implementation of this project was inaugurated in Al-Najaf, which is considered the main centre for this project.”

Al-Athari said: “In each governorate there is a school that is supervised by a guide from the virtuous men of the religious seminary. Each governorate is divided into regions in accordance with the geographic location, and each region is headed by a supervisor.” He added: “Each region is also divided into several divisions, and each division is supervised by a young man, who enjoys cultural and religious capabilities.”

Concerning the number of schools that have been inaugurated so far, Al-Athari said: “We will open schools to serve the Al-Mumahhidun project in all Iraqi governorates.” He added: “We have opened schools in Al-Najaf, Karbala, Babil, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Samarra.”

Asked about the mechanism for accepting participants into the Al-Mumahhidun project, the head of the Al-Mumahhidun project in Al-Najaf said: “Those who wish to join the project should fill an application form. This form is presented to the follow-up committee, which evaluates the level of awareness and behavior of the applicant, asks him questions, and ensures that he does not belong to any terrorist parties or to the Ba’th Party.” He added: “Some of those who applied for the project were not accepted, because they lacked good moral and social characteristics, thus failed to meet the conditions set by Muqtada al-Sadr.”

Regarding people’s interest in joining the project in Iraqi cities, Al-Athari said: “There is great interest in joining the project. People are persistently calling on us to open a large number of schools.” He added: “In some governorates, the percentage of those interested in joining the project reached between 70 and 80 per cent, while in some other governorates, this percentage was between 50 and 60 per cent.” As for the participation of women, the Al-Mumahhidun official said: “We are coordinating with a number of Islamic societies all over Iraq, and women have started to sign up for the project.”

Asked about the difficulties facing the project, the head of the Al-Mumahhidun project in Al-Najaf said: “We are addressing serious challenges imposed by two parties: first, the occupation, and, second, the political parties in power.” He added: “The Al-Sadr Trend is not in a confrontation with the state, as some media outlets are circulating. Rather, it supports the Iraqi state as a state.” He explained that “the occupation forces claim that they are not against cultural action. Nevertheless, a few days ago, they arrested the Al-Mumahhidun project guide in Al-Rasafah.”

The Al-Mumahhidun official accused some influential political parties in the Governorates of Al-Diwaniyah, Al-Samawah, Basra, Baghdad, and Karbala of tearing down posters and signs that urge people to join the Al-Mumahhidun project.” He said that “in Basra, members of the Al-Mumahhidun project are facing great difficulties in terms of gathering together for teaching purposes.” He added that “the real difficulty facing this cultural project is the obvious war waged by some influential Shi’i parties, which are inciting against the Al-Sadr Trend and claiming that this trend only knows the language of arms.” He went on: “We tell them that the Al-Sadr Trend knows the language of arms, but only against the occupation.”

Al-Athari called on “all researchers, clerics, and writers inside Iraq and in Arab and Islamic states to provide the project with whatever ideas and visions they may have.” He added: “I also call on Sunni and Christian youth and on young men from other sects to learn about the Al-Mumahhidun project and they will find an open door in it.”

For his part, Anwar al-Ukayli, Al-Mumahhidun guide in Al-Najaf, said: “The Al-Mumahhidun project includes two programmes: a religious and an academic programme.” He added: “Within the framework of the religious programme, students are offered four daily lessons in jurisprudence, creeds, Koran intonation, and ethics.” He added: “As for the academic programme, it takes care of student accounts, uniforms, and student identification cards.”

Al-Ukayli told Asharq Al-Awsat that “those who are between the ages of 20 and 45 years old are eligible to join the Al-Mumahhidun school.” He added: “As for the work mechanism, it is divided into three categories: the first category includes college and middle school graduates; the second includes elementary school graduates; and the third includes illiterates.” He explained: “This category is rehabilitated in a special school, where students learn to read and write, before they join the Al-Mumahhidun school.”

Concerning the duration of study in the Al-Mumahhidun school, Al-Ukayli said: “The programme comprises four semesters, each of six months duration.” He added: “Students go through four scholastic stages, which are: ‘the willing,’ and they are those who wish to join the Al-Mumahhidun project; ‘students,’ and they are those who seek self-reform; ‘the pious,’ and they are those who have made progress on the road to the greatest jihad, thus becoming capable of reforming others; and finally ‘the saviours’ – which is the highest rank in the Al-Mumahhidun – and they are those who set an example for others, and in the footsteps of whom the faithful follow.” He added: “Al-Najaf residents have shown a great reaction to this project.” He said: The number of participants in this project has reached 400 students in the Al-Najaf school and its branches in four regions, including the centre of the city, its northern and southern parts, and in the district of Al-Kufah.”

Concerning the participation of the Al-Mumahhidun in armed resistance, the Al-Mumahhidun project guide in Al-Najaf said: “Should the need to carry arms arise, the religious authority or the shari’ah ruler will issue an order in this regard and the Al-Mumahhidun will carry arms.” He added: “Before joining the Al-Mumahhidun school, each student is required to sign a document pledging not to interfere in politics and not to carry arms, even for self-defence purposes.” He explained: “Students can resort to the law or to tribal rulings.” He stressed that “if it is proved that any student has interfered in military or political affairs, he will be suspended from the Al-Mumahhidun school.”

In the meantime, the official in charge of the Al-Mumahhidun project in Mosul, who refused to reveal his name, said that “this project is not concerned only with the Shi’i sect. Rather, it is concerned with all sectors of the Iraqi society, particularly in Mosul, which a city of multiplicity.” He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “This project has been met with great enthusiasm by the residents of Mosul from all sects.” He added: “For our part, we are currently waging campaigns to introduce people to this religious project.” He explained: “We hope that a large number of Christians and Yazidis [Kurdish religious minority] will participate in this project.”

Concerning the project suffering security harassment in Mosul, the Al-Mumahhidun official in Mosul said: “Despite the tough security situation in Mosul, there is no security harassment.”